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iFi launches iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

DIPping into your record collection

by Andy Bassett
Hi-Fi News

1

iFi launches iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

Southport based audio tech specialist iFi Audio has unveiled a new flagship phono stage, the iPhono3 Black Label, designed to help vinyl fans really get the best out of their turntables.

Every turntable requires a phono stage to amplify the extremely low-level output signal from a phono cartridge up to the line level required at the amp input. While some turntables and amps have these built in, it’s generally acknowledged that serious turntable users might get better performance out of a separate phone stage between the turntable and amp.

Enter iFi’s iPhono3 Black Label, a standalone phono stage derived from sister company AMR’s  £12,000 PH-77 phono preamplifier, which aims to provide user configurable, premium performance for any MC or MM cartridge.

iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

The iPhono3 removes the need for a coupling capacitor from cartridge to output and is instead direct-coupled. It achieves this without a conventional DC servo and instead incorporates a proprietary DC Infinity circuit to boost DC gain to a level approaching infinity in what iFi calls a Direct Drive Servoless design. The company claims this approach contributes greatly to the iPhono3 Black Label’s audible clarity, accuracy and transparency. 

The third generation of iFi’s TubeState engine is the culmination of four decades of research and this technology lies at the heart of the iPhono3 ensuring the solid state circuitry captures the key attributes that make valve circuits so sonically appealing, all whilst maintaining ultra-low distortion. 

iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

One of the key features of the Black Label phono stage is the range of adjustments provided which enable a vinyl enthusiast to tailor the performance to precisely match their phono cartridge and record collection. 

A series of DIP switches on the underside of the iPhono3 allow listeners to select gain settings of between 36dB and 72dB, alongside a wide variety of load values – eight for MC cartridges and a further five for MM cartridges. iFi has helpfully provided an online ‘cartridge calculator’ to help users set their system up.

iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

Additionally, three EQ curves can be applied using a toggle switch. These include the standard RIAA equalisation setting which usually suits records produced post 1980 but for those that sound thin and edgy or have overblown bass, then applying the Decca or Columbia EQ settings respectively may help.

Moreover, the RIAA EQ curve can be further customised using the DIP switches, for example to extend high frequency response or handle subsonic issues with warped vinyl.

iFi Audio iPhono3 Black Label phono stage

The high quality components involved in the construction of the iPhono3 Black Label phono stage are listed below:

• Burr-Brown SoundPlus op-amp, complemented by Panasonic ECPU film capacitors, delivers low distortion and ensures excellent dynamic range.  

• Computer-matched pair of planar high-gain bipolar input transistors lowers output noise. 

• Four Nichicon 470uF/6.3V capacitors deliver lower ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance) and improve speed and bass performance. 

• Eight Panasonic OS-CON capacitors totalling 14,800uF deliver low ESR and improved noise reduction and frequency characteristics. 

• Numerous TDK C0G type capacitors – these have lower thermal drift and distortion than Polystyrene capacitors. 

• Two Elna Silmic II capacitors for the power supply – these use silk fibre paper for the isolating barrier, resulting in decreased odd-order distortion and reduced microphonics. 

• Numerous Vishay MELF thin film resistors, delivering dramatically reduced distortion compared to standard surface-mounted resistors.


The iFi iPhono3 Black Label is available from selected retailers from 22nd May at an RRP of £999.This includes iFi’s new iPower X ultra-low-noise AC/DC power supply (£99 when purchased separately).

Does the iPhono3 Black Label phono stage sound like it would improve your turntable setup? Let us know what you think of this news story in the chat thread.

Source: Press Release
Image Source: iFi

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